Smoking a brisket is both a simple endeavour and a stressful one. You don’t want to overcook the brisket, or cook it at too high a temperature, as it can easily become dry and tough. However, there are a couple of tricks you can use to ensure a moist and tender brisket, rich with the flavour of smoke and spices. One is to brine the brisket for at least a day before cooking. I just submerge the brisket in a brine, while others will go to the trouble of injecting the brisket, much like you would with a ham. I suppose it depends on how much energy you have, or if you had an injection pump. I don’t. The other “trick” is something called the “Texas Crutch”, which is basically wrapping the brisket in heavy duty foil (or sometimes butcher paper) to allow the brisket to steam while it finishes cooking. At the end of the day, if you utilize both of these methods, and cook the brisket at an even low temperature, you will be rewarded with a delicious, meltingly tender, smoky slab of meat.
Note: You need to start this recipe two days before cooking. For the BBQ Spice, you can use your favorite brand. We make our own all purpose one at the shop; see recipe below.
Serves 6 to 8
½ cup sugar
½ cup salt
3 tbsp pickling spice
2 L water
5-6 lbs brisket (I prefer the fatty end, or “point”, but the leaner side, or “flat” is nice too)
1 cup BBQ dry spice rub (see recipe below)
- TWO DAYS BEFORE COOKING: In a large stainless steel pot over a high heat, mix the sugar, salt, and pickling spices with the water. Bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar, then take off the heat. Once the water is cool to the touch, submerge the brisket in the brine so it is totally covered. Place the pot in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, remove the brisket from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine. Place the brisket in a non-reactive (glass or stainless steel) pan, and season it liberally with the BBQ dry spice mix. Cover and place back in the fridge to marinate overnight.
- The next day, prepare your BBQ. Soak four to five cups of wood chips in water for 30 minutes. If using a propane or gas grill with a smoke box, light only one burner and preheat the grill to 250°F to 275°F. Place a handful of the soaked wood chips in the smoke box and put the box on top of the one lit burner until it starts smouldering. If using a charcoal grill, light the coals and pile them on one side of the grill. Close the lid and adjust the intake and exhaust damper to get the temperature to around 250°F to 275°F, then sprinkle a handful of soaked wood chips on the coal to begin the smouldering.
- Place the brisket on the indirect heat side of your BBQ, and close the lid. Maintain the temperature and smoke (adding woodchips and/or charcoal as needed) throughout the duration of the cooking process. After two hours, flip the brisket over. After another two hours, take the brisket out of the BBQ and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil so it is completely wrapped. Place it back on the BBQ, close the lid, and continue cooking for another 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the brisket reaches around 190°F, and feels soft to the poke of a fork.
- Remove the brisket from the BBQ and let it rest in the foil for 45 minutes before unwrapping, slicing thinly across the grain, and serving. I like to serve brisket with seasonal boiled corn and potato salad.
BBQ Dry Spice Rub
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sweet paprika
3 tbsp onion powder
3 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp rubbed dry thyme
4 tsp dry rosemary
1 tbsp ground black pepper
Mix all the ingredients well in a large mixing bowl. Store in an air-tight container for up to two months.